After too long a hiatus I am excited to at last return to writing about Russell Gmirkin’s new book, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible.
The previous two posts:
- Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible
- The Pentateuch’s Debt to Greek Laws and Constitutions — A New Look
The following post is far from what I originally intended, but I am posting it very much in the rough for the sake of getting the ball rolling again.
|Tribal organization and the military|
|Athenians between ca 300 and 220 BCE were organized into 12 tribes primarily for military purposes. (They were also used for judicial and political functions.)
|Israel’s 12 tribes were primarily military divisions:
they marched through the wilderness in these military formations:
After settled in the land the 12 tribes are portrayed as again coming together for military operations:
|Athenians were enrolled into the army at age 20.
|The Book of Numbers records how each tribe enlisted its men from 20 years of age:
|Greek and Hellenistic armies were organized in units of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands (although the units of 10s and 50s were introduced late under Roman influence)
|and organized them in their units of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands:
|Each tribal military unit had its own general (phylarch).
|with a general in charge of each tribe’s army:
|The early Athenian divisions were into four tribes, but each of these four were divided into thirds (trittyes), yielding 12 trittyes.
The system was revamped around 500 BCE to give 10 tribes, each with its own eponymous hero. The 12 trittyes were retained for religious purposes.Around 300 BCE the ten tribes were expanded to 12. (About 220 to 200 BCE they temporarily adopted a 13 tribe system.)
The tribes were not literal family groupings but actually legal fictions. The four founders of the four groups of tribes were said to have been the four sons of Ion.
|These 12 tribes were organized in 4 groups, each group consisting of 3 tribes:
Compare the northern kingdom of Israel consisting of 10 tribes (Joseph divided into two; in 1 Kings we find 2 tribes (Judah and Benjamin) gathering as armed units to fight those 10. So despite the general arrangement of 12 tribes (especially in the pre-monarchical period) there were at times variations of 10, 12 and 13.
|Plato in Laws (ca 350 BCE) argued that a 12 tribe system was the optimum.
Around 315 BCE Hecataeus of Abdera wrote Aegyptiaca in which he said that Moses created the system of 12 tribes.
|Works about Athenian legal institutions, Plato’s Laws and Hecataeus’s Aegyptiaca were all available in the Great Library of Alexandria when Jewish scholars visited there ca 270 BCE. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the authors of the works that came to form the Hebrew Scriptures had all of these sources available to them.
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